Found footage films gain popularity

Caroline Madden, ‘Doah Staff Writer
October 23, 2013

“The Blair Witch Project,” released in 1999, revolutionized the found footage genre. Today, more than a decade later, found footage is becoming a staple for horror films. Found footage is a style where most or all of the film is shown as discovered video recordings, often from dead or missing characters. Shaky cam and off-screen dialogue is used frequently, since the camera is held by one of the characters involved. More and more found footage horror films are being released, especially following the release of “Paranormal Activity.” “Paranormal Activity” was wildly successful, spawning three sequels and another on its way. Found footage has become so popular that the legendary Friday the 13th series is considering doing the reboot’s sequel in the style. While there are many popular and well-known found footage movies, there are other excellent and lesser known ones that you don’t want to miss. Here are just five of them:

rec-poster“[Rec]” : This Spanish horror film tells the story of a TV reporter and crew documenting the night shift of a local fire station. The firemen receive a call from an apartment building. Locked in upon arriving, they discover the apartment holds horrors that they could never have imagined. The crew documents the long nightmarish evening. The film makes the viewers feel they are trapped alongside them. With a strange but eerie ending, “[Rec]” is a gory and horrifying found footage film.

“V/H/S/2”: This sequel is much better than its predecessor, “V/H/S.” Both films are anthropologies of four short films with a frame narrative to tie everything together. The frame narrative involves characters watching the shorts on a VHS tape. Each short has a different director. The first film had many shorts that fell flat, but all of them in “V/H/S/2” are scary and imaginative. Two of the best shorts are “Phase I Clinical Trials” and “Safe Haven.” “Phase I Clinical Trials” inventively places the camera inside a man’s eye, who had lost his sight after a car accident. The man returns home to find that he can now see ghosts. “Safe Haven” is an incredibly disturbing look at a cult that results in a surprising and off-the-wall ending.

grave-encounters“Grave Encounters”: The final footage has been found of the “Grave Encounters” ghost-hunting reality show. Show frontrunner Preston and his crew shoot an episode in an abandoned mental hospital, ready to document any paranormal activity that they see. To up the stakes, they lock themselves inside the building at night. But, they soon find the building is possessed and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. The crew all become trapped in a maze of endless hallways and corridors while being terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. The dark and abandoned mental hospital gives “Grave Encounters” a creepy atmosphere. The film has great scares and an ending that will leave you stunned.

“Lake Mungo”:  The body of 16-year-old Alice Palmer is found drowned in the local dam. Following her burial, her grieving family begins experiencing strange events in their home. They employ a psychic and parapsychologist who discover that Alice was leading a double life. “Lake Mungo” has twists and turns that lead you to the unexpected. Once you think everything is resolved, the film pulls the rug out from under you. The film is shot so realistically that it feels like a true documentary. Spooky, unsettling and compelling, “Lake Mungo” is incredibly haunting thriller with imagery that will stay with you for days.

“The Last Exorcism”: This film is fairly well known — it even received a lousy sequel this year. However, the original deserves more credit than it is given. Reverend Cotton Marcus knows he is a fake and delights in the fun and games of those pretending to be possessed. He brings along a documentary crew to capture the final exorcisms of his career. But, his disbelief is put to the test when he is called to help a young girl Nell be rid of her possession. While exorcisms are a popular subject for horror, this film gives a fresh take on the tired subject. “The Last Exorcism” has engaging characters and a few great thrills. The film leads up to a questionable ending that while may not be the greatest, is thought provoking.

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